Cyprus has become the land where shattered dreams are mounting into heaps of broken promises and the saga of public discontent continues with no end in sight. For those who do not live on the island it is difficult to comprehend the devastation EU-IMF Troika and the Cyprus government(s) have done to the country. The pungent stench of economic and social betrayal permeates in everyone’s noses. Each passing day, new disgraceful financial scandals of corruption come to the surface, involving prominent public figures reputed to be pillars of society; yet nobody is prosecuted – instead, they’re offered amnesty from wrongdoing.
What is most surprising out of this tragedy is its citizens’ strange behaviour. When the government and Troika robbed the nation blind and crashed its economy… people said nothing; when they froze their accounts and stole their money to bailout banks… they still said nothing; now condemned to repay billions of loans through taxation… people continue to say nothing; their homes are about to be repossessed… and people still say nothing. By the time they come for their soul… they will no longer be around to say anything! Instead, sedated by the terrible trauma, they became easy victims of persuasion by government spin.
Thankfully, citizens are waking up from deep hibernation. They are now speaking out with furore on public forums, telling their side of harsh truth in the hope that someone sane will listen and help them out of the straightjacket their own government has ensnared them in. Even the Archbishop of Cyprus has called for people to rise up en-masse and resist the ongoing economic and social crimes committed against the nation. In essence, his strong message reveals a desperate cry for a non-violent revolution and a mass uprising against the continuing injustice.
The official government response for its rush decision to sign the EU-IMF Troika’s loan resolution (without consultation or a referendum)? It was a price worth paying to stabilize the banking system, save the country from bankruptcy and to demonstrate that Cypriots are ‘good Europeans’. Many will say that’s just hogwash! Such a patronising attitude by a Europhile yes government is not only an insult to people’s intelligence but also an insult to the thousands of unsuspecting citizens who are about to lose their homes (under Troika’s orders) and certainly an insult to those businesses that face total collapse; or to the 100,000 jobless, not forgetting the destitute standing in food lineups. Yet, only five years ago the county enjoyed prosperity and zero unemployment.
Without meaningful investments, low interest rates (Cyprus’s rates are triple the rest of Europe) and the unhindered circulation of money in the market place to kick start the economy, existing government policies are doomed to fail; it will then be dependent on additional Troika poisoned loans – estimated to reach as much as €50 billion. For a small country this is madness! Certainly this is not a solution but a sure way for Cyprus to experience serfdom and colonisation.
The allegory of the frogs suits the situation on the island perfectly well: frogs swimming in a pond full of murky water are happy to swim away in muck without a worry in the world as long as their meagre existence is not threatened; ignorant of the fact that the water is gradually being heated to a point the unsuspecting frogs have no will to escape and ultimately boil to death! If, on the other hand, the same frogs were thrown into a pot full of boiling water the frogs would instantly jump out of the scorching water to save their skin. Cypriots found themselves in a similar murky situation; apathetically they misread the signs of entrapment and lethargically found themselves in a black hole without the resolve to jump out and avoid ruin.
Sifting through the political maze of entrapment one becomes aware there is no real prospect for salvation in Cyprus because: the system always protects the system; bankers protect bankers; governments are in support of governments and politicians are in support of politicians. It’s a private, privileged club where citizens are excluded. This makes it impossible to find justice under a system that is isolated from the people and operates without transparency or accountability.
The spiral web of convenience and cronyism is well embedded into the political structure and will remain so unless reformed. Nevertheless, changes to a political structure or government cannot be accomplished using the same mechanisms that created them in the first place. On the other hand, if no sweeping reforms take place, things will deteriorate. Left unchallenged, the repetition of social injustice will continue for years to come because the political and social structure in Cyprus was established on shaky foundations. Under those terms, there is no hope in the world for the system to be changed by the system.
Aristotle portrayed two types of revolutionary changes to a bad system: (1) complete change from one constitution to another and (2) modification of an existing constitution. The first option is the most common and will never materialise without a popular uprising to influence sweeping changes to the status quo. The latter, on the other hand, is hindered by political self-interests. Consequently, the chances of radical reforms initiated by those same persons who govern and thrive on exploiting the system are remote, if not impossible.
In non-violent uprisings, extensive campaigns of civil resistance, the likes of mass labour strikes, peaceful marches and rallies, contribute to the pressure for the ultimate collapse of oppressive regimes and there are many examples, such as the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the revolution in Poland, the collapse of the military junta in Greece and many others. In fact, the United Nations recognizes this complex phenomenon of the ‘Right to a Revolution’ (violent or non-violent) as a human right.
According to the American Constitution “a revolution is justifiable when a long train of tyrannical government abuses take place; it is the citizens’ right and their duty, to throw off such a Government”. John Locke, a renowned British philosopher/thinker, declared that “the people could instigate a revolution against the government when it acted against the interest of citizens”. He furthered deemed that “the right to a revolution is an obligation and essentially acts as a safeguard against tyranny”.
Most uprisings aspire for democratic rule on the presumption that it’s a panacea. Actually, democracy in its present metamorphosis is a flawed ideology that encourages corruption, nepotism and tyranny. It ultimately reinforces and paves the way for a privileged minority to govern the masses, while it also marginalises groups of citizens from the electoral process. Unless a new revolutionary culture is established to radically reform existing pseudo-democratic governments and political institutions, citizens will always be at the mercy of petty politicians.
To liberate the island from its present turmoil, it will take a benevolent leadership with vision, but such leadership should not be the result of some kind of political-party arrangement concocted behind closed doors; it will never work and the present experience is a fine example of that. That is only the half-truth; the underlying problem in Cyprus is not simply economic – in time that can be resolved – but the other half is rather more complex, and that is the prevailing continuance of government incompetence and its inability to govern judiciously for the welfare and protection of the nation.
Today, Cyprus has reached a turning point in its history and may soon be the subject for revolutionary changes – changes that are well overdue. It undoubtedly needs a new constitution and also has to do away with the ‘presidential’ form of government which has failed the country so miserably for so many years.
In fact, what Cyprus desperately needs today is a benevolent government; a government in stature and comparison to philosopher rulers or a Pericles of Athens who will uphold justice, transparency and the rule of law in high esteem, but foremost, to care and protect the nation from economic assassins such as EU-IMF Troika and other enemies of the state.
* Andreas C Chrysafis is a writer and a painter who lives between London and Cyprus.